[box cover]

The Night of the Iguana

The Tennessee Williams Collection

It's dispiriting to think that shooting a film in black-and-white is currently viewed as a stunt. In John Huston's The Night of the Iguana (1964), the story is set in Mexico and, as seen in the supplements, the coastal landscape is gorgeous. Which is why shooting in black and white was so crucial to the picture — were it in color, the beautiful settings might distract from the inherent drama of a defrocked priest trying to regain his sanity. The black-and-white photography (by Gabriel Figueroa) then keeps focus on the human characters instead of the setting. Richard Burton stars as Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, who — after a sermon that shows he's lost his bearings — ends up as a Mexican tour guide. Of late he's been stuck with a busload of women, including the sexually entranced Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon, best known for her turn in Kubrick's Lolita), whose interest in Shannon makes the leader of the tour, Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall), feel that Shannon should be banned from his job. But his respite comes at the hotel of Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner), an old friend of Shannon's, and who houses the tour-bus women. Also turning up at the hotel is Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr), who hustles through Mexico with her poet grandfather. Though Charlotte provokes trouble and switches interests from Shannon to the bus driver Hank Prosner (James "Skip" Ward), the tour group decides to leave, leading Shannon to a breakdown after losing his job. The Night of the Iguana is about a spiritual and emotional crisis of a man of faith, and it's effective as such, but it remains a minor effort by the director, more notable for his corralling of stars known for their external stimuli (Burton was carrying on an affair with Elizabeth Taylor during the production, which lent the film and its setting some notoriety). Still, it's a solid adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, and it offers Burton one of his better roles. Burton was an actor who was only engaged in a piece as often as his director provoked him, leading to a wildly erratic career in film. This is one of his best on-screen turns, but the real star is Ava Gardner. Often limited to roles that served her beauty, in Iguana Gardener gets the chance to play a multi-dimensional character, and it's one of her best performances. Warner presents Night of the Iguana (originally an MGM theatrical release) in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Extras include the featurette "Huston's Gamble: The Night of the Iguana" (10 min.), the vintage featurette "On the Trail of The Iguana (14 min.), and two trailers. Keep-case.

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